Cincy stars hit the road to kick off Reds Caravan

January 25th, 2024
Reds Caravan stop at Portsmouth Elementary

As the Reds Caravan rolls through Reds Country in the event’s biggest undertaking to date, some of the organization’s rising stars and newest members have enjoyed every minute of it.

The annual unofficial kickoff to a new season of Cincinnati baseball hit the road Monday with the first of five legs over a six-day period. The Central, West, East, South and North legs will travel a combined 3,100-plus miles throughout Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.

Kicking off the week was the Central tour, headed by relief pitcher and Cincinnati native Brent Suter and Reds prospects Edwin Arroyo, Chase Petty and Jay Allen II. The players were joined by former Cincinnati catcher Corky Miller, broadcasters John Sadak, Brian Giesenschlag and Tommy Thrall, and vice president of player development Shawn Pender. Proudly representing one half of baseball’s mascot Mt. Rushmore were Mr. Redlegs and Gapper.

The day started around 8 a.m. with a visit to one of the team’s radio affiliates in Maysville, Ky., for some on-air appearances. The next location featured what is widely considered the highlight of every Caravan, a school takeover. This first takeover took place at Portsmouth Elementary, where screaming students welcomed the Reds contingent as they filed into the gymnasium.

Reds Caravan stop at Portsmouth Elementary

“Getting out here and seeing how much people care about the Reds has been great,” Allen said. “The school was definitely my favorite. Seeing all the kids and putting a smile on their face was the best.”

“It was really fun stopping at the school and seeing how wild they went for us, so we had a really good time there,” Petty added.

The Portsmouth pitstop featured a number of memorable moments, including Miller racing Mr. Redlegs across the gym and Suter debuting a few of his famous impressions for Reds fans, ranging from Elmo to Jim Carrey.

Reds Caravan stop at Portsmouth Elementary

As for the Q&A portion, the kids served up popular questions to their special guests, such as when they first started playing baseball and who their favorite players were growing up. But there were a couple pre-Spring Training curveballs.

“One kid asked me what’s the most expensive stuff I’ve bought,” Arroyo said with a laugh. “But the kids were awesome, and it was a really good experience. I enjoyed it as much as they did.”

From Portsmouth, the bus rumbled to Chillicothe for another radio stop before returning to Cincinnati for a visit to 700WLW headquarters. Like his bus mates experiencing their first true foray into Reds Country, the Moeller High School grad Suter was also seeing parts of Ohio for the first time.

“I’ve never been to Portsmouth, Chillicothe, and even these places not that far from my house before today,” said Suter, who resides in Anderson Township. “It’s been so cool to reach out to Reds fans all over the place while representing the team and get them excited about Reds baseball.”

Reds Caravan crew departing Great American Ball Park

There were some other firsts on this trip for a couple of the prospects. Leftover snow from the weekend was still all around. Hailing from Florida and Puerto Rico respectively, this was the first time Allen and Arroyo had seen snow in person. 

“I got off the plane and called my mom immediately,” Allen said. “I even threw a couple snowballs at Edwin.”

“Seeing everything white was different,” Arroyo said. “It was wild, but it was cool.”

Reds Caravan stop at Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill

The final stop of the day took the crew to Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill in Hamilton, Ohio. The crowd of over 450 took a seat for a Q&A before lining up for autographs.

The first day wrapped up about 13 hours after it started. But there’s no rest for the weary on the Reds Caravan, and everyone was back on the bus by 8:15 the following morning preparing for another full itinerary.

Tuesday started with another school takeover, this time at Freedom Elementary in West Chester, Ohio. The players spent some time with 14 all-star students during which they autographed items and posed for pictures.

Fourth grader Kameron Davis couldn’t get the smile off his face from the moment his teacher told him he would be meeting Reds players. Davis, who has been following the Reds closely for four years, may have inadvertently issued a challenge for his favorite player Elly De La Cruz.

“He’s my favorite because of his speed,” Davis said. “But I could beat him in a race -- barely.”

It was at that moment that Gapper walked in, Davis’ attention immediately shifted and the interview was over. The excitement of appearing in a published story pales in comparison to the joy brought by the Reds’ favorite furry friend.

Reds Caravan stop at Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill

After the boisterous bunch of students at Freedom welcomed the Reds into their gym for a Q&A and group photo, it was back on the highway.

With so much driving to be done over two days, there is plenty of time for conversation. And the discussions flowed freely with a group that already knew each other quite well.

MLB Pipeline ranked Arroyo third, Petty sixth and Allen 17th in their team prospect rankings to close out 2023. The three have been teammates at different levels in the Reds farm system ever since Petty and Arroyo were acquired via trade in 2022 and joined Allen in the organization.

“Me, Chase and Edwin have a long history of playing baseball together,” Allen said. “We’ve been friends for a long time, even before meeting up here in the Minor Leagues, so it’s been great hanging with them.”

Reds Caravan stop at Freedom Elementary

By his own admission, Suter was the patriarch of the group. But he fit right in.

“It’s been awesome, but I feel like I could be all their dads,” Suter joked. “They’re all great kids, a lot of talent. I can’t wait to see them hopefully in a Reds uniform later this year, that’d be amazing. But they’ve been really good about being engaged, asking questions, listening and swapping great stories.”

The youngsters were more than happy to have dad along for the ride.

“Having Brent there, he’s a great guy, it’s been good to pick his brain,” Petty said. “When you talk to him, you wouldn’t expect that he’s a Major Leaguer. He’s just so easygoing and a great guy.”

Tuesday afternoon featured more radio stops before the Central tour concluded its journey in front of another large crowd at the Lawrenceburg Event Center in Indiana.

If you ever wondered how the players feel about Reds fans, the Caravan is a testament to their appreciation for and acknowledgement of the best fan base in baseball. And they’re ready to give it their all for Reds Country.

“The fans have been great, they make us feel so comfortable and they’re easy to love,” Petty said.

“Joining the Reds is the pinnacle of my dream of being a big league ballplayer,” Suter said. “We have a great culture and a great team and there’s a lot happening down at GABP, so get ready for it.”